A Body Blow to Cricket

First published

14 January 1901

We are wondering what will happen, whether there is any future for Australian cricket. This whole business of bodyline or leg theory bowling has come to a crisis in Adelaide.

It is all because of Bradman. The English­ men want to win at any costs. In the Third Test at Adelaide, the Englishmen made 341 runs. On Saturday Fingleton was out to Allen for only one run. Then on came Larwood. He hit Woodfull a tremendous blow. The ball was just over the heart and it if it had been any closer it might have killed him.

The crowd shrieked and hooted. It took Woodfull several minutes to recover. But did Jardine decide to ease his mayhem tactics? No, indeed! When Larwood started his run for the first ball of his next over, Jardine stopped him. He moved the off-side fieldsmen over to the legside for the bodyline attack. The crowd went mad. Even the quiet Adelaide gentlemen in the members stand were hollering abuse. It wouldn't have taken much for the crowd to have jumped the fence, Bradman went out for just 8 runs, and Woodfull was hit several times again until he was bowled by Allen for 22.

Every time Larwood touched the ball they hooted him. But the climax came when the English team managers, Pelham Warner, and Lionel Palairet, called on the Australian dress­ing room. Woodfull had taken his shower and he was receiving treatment for his bruises. There was a livid red mark right under his heart.

Warner said 'We have come to say how sorry we are and to offer our sympathy'. Woodfull replied 'I don't want to see you, Mr Warner. There are two teams out there. One is trying to play cricket and the other is not. The game is too good to be spoilt. It is time some people got out of it'.

You can imagine the play this got in the London press. But Larwood is not bowling leg theory all the time. When he bowls off theory he gets a cheer from the crowd. But today things have gone from bad to worse. Oldfield tried to hook Larwood. He was actually bowling off theory at the time. The ball hit him right on the forehead and he went to hospital.

The Adelaide crowd went mad. They hooted Larwood, counted him out, gave him derisive slow handclaps.

Now the Cricket Board of Control has sent a cable to the Marylebone Cricket Club which says:

Bodyline bowling assuming such propor­tions as to menace the best interests of the game, making protection of the body by the batsman the main consideration. This is causing intensely bitter feeling between the players, as well as injury. Unless stop­ped at once it is likely to upset the friendly relations existing between England and Australia.

There has been no reaction as yet from the MCC, but one asks how can cricket sustain this sort of thing. Perhaps it might be better, in future, if Australia played England at safer pastimes, like bridge or ping pong.

Of a retrospective series Keith Dunstan wrote for the The Age Newspaper to mark the 1988 Australian bicentenary

Keywords in this article

CricketBodyline seriesSir Donald BradmanPelham WarnerLionel Palairet

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